Contrary to the dubious mantra we always chant about salary secrecy, keeping salaries confidential only benefits the party with all the information — the employer. And with them, the government, the tax bureau, the credit bureau and other authorities.
I come to this conversation from a South African standpoint, where greed and exploitation run deep in our culture. Lots of companies in the country were built (some still continue to run) on what is effectively free labour. And the ones that do not still run off of people who have nowhere else to go and no other way to earn money. It goes without saying that there is a certain level of violence and unfairness that goes with the statement “you need me”.
It goes without saying that there is a certain level of violence and unfairness that goes with the statement “you need me”.
Because of the above mentioned factors, lots of companies in South Africa manage to thrive with zero company culture, zero benefits employees and zero equity for long term/loyal employees. They barely need to do any work to attract employees. This is evidenced by how little effort companies put into HR. They get a million people to take care of clients and…well, zero to one people to take care of employees. To make matters worse companies don’t even think twice about outsourcing this function. It is clear where their priorities lie.
For companies in such an environment salary secrecy is just another layer through which they can maximise benefits for themselves, create room for lazy accounting and further eliminate a need for company culture. Companies can pretend they are doing you a favour by giving you a raise, or even simply keeping you as an employee, regardless how skewed the ratio of value you add to reward you get might be.
If you are signing a contract that you didn’t write yourself chances are you are benefitting the least from it. It is with this statement that I challenge you to discuss your salary when prompted. Learn what others earn, how they earn it, what other people in your industry make, what their contracts look like. Understand the system in which you operate. If you do not know what you are working with you are likely to end up working for it indefinitely — and in conditions you don’t like.
If you are signing a contract that you didn’t write yourself chances are you are benefitting the least from it.
The cautionary step before beginning to discuss your salary with others is learning not to equate your salary/income/how much money you have in the bank to your worth as a person. If you do your ego will either get bloated or you will get hurt when you discover your position relative to other people. I challenge young people to share how much they make with other young people, and with students, because we are the most likely to get taken advantage of if we do not. As the emerging leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of South Africa we get to decide if we will passively inherit a working culture defined by the previous generation (and most likely inherited from the Apartheid regime) or create something new, something that reflects our values as born frees.